With “A Dog’s Way Home” tugging at heartstrings last month and “The Secret Life of Pets 2” set to tickle our funny bones when summer comes, we decided to revisit some of the best films that star our pets. We’re not talking about “Garfield,” “Marmaduke,” or “Cats & Dogs” because those films were just horrible.
As we all know, pet films tend to be gush-worthy, fuzz-loving – and sometimes even heartbreaking – works of sentimentality, but that’s why we love them. Pet films remind us why our animal companions – furry, feathered, or even scaled – are so dear to us even though they don’t speak the same language as we do.
Below we’ve compiled some of the best films that star pets and talk about our relationships with our favorite animals.
The Adventures of Milo and Otis
“The Adventures of Milo and Otis” is a tale of everlasting friendship between two creatures that have usually been understood as at odds with each other. Milo, an orange tabby kitten, starts a friendship with Otis, a pug puppy, that eventually blooms into a bond that not even bears, hunger, and a crazy waterfall jump can break.
Unfortunately for animal lovers, as much as Milo and Otis’ grand adventure is heartwarming, the film’s production ran into allegations of animal cruelty due to some particularly dangerous scenes which would obviously result in unavoidable death for animals if real ones were used. While the allegations remain allegations, it’s heartbreaking to consider that such a beautiful story was created with the possibility of extreme animal cruelty.
Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey
Not to be mistaken for the 1963 Disney live action film which also featured a trio composed of two dogs and a cat, “Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey” is a touching story about the bonds between pets and their chosen humans.
Shadow, Chance, and Sassy are a trio of pets owned by the Burnford family who were left behind accidentally when the family had to move to San Francisco. The pitbull, golden retriever, and Himalayan cat undertake a journey to return to their owners despite all odds – even going up against a mountain lion.
“Homeward Bound’s” charm lies in the fact that the movie was undeniably made for children yet can also delight any adult with its portrayals of loyalty, mischievousness, and kinship between the three pets as well as their owners.
The Secret Life of Pets
The original “The Secret Life of Pets” is still a modern classic pet film that delights both children and adults with its zany humor and quaint message about not mistreating your pets.
“The Secret Life of Pets” kicks off when Max, a Jack Russell Terrier owned by a human named Katie, suddenly gets jealous when his owner brings home a new dog, Duke, from the pound. Max’s jealousy eventually snowballs into shenanigans, which leaves him and Duke far away from Katie in a scary world – a premise which sounds particularly similar to “Toy Story” but does not make the movie any less enjoyable.
For those excited for “The Secret Life of Pets'” sequel, one of the significant differences that the upcoming film will have will be the replacement of Max’s voice, from Louis C.K. to Patton Oswalt.
A nearly forgotten film about reincarnation and family, “Fluke” was released back in 1995 starring Matthew Modine, Eric Stoltz, and Nancy Travis. It was not a popular movie – underperforming at the box office – but it is a particularly memorable one for its premise.
“Fluke” is the story of a dog of the same name who starts to discover the past life that he lived as a successful business man, but also as a not-so-successful father and husband. Given a second shot at life, the movie follows Fluke as he unravels the reasons for his reincarnation and his final understanding of what he missed out on in his first life.
While “Fluke” does lean heavily on the moral lessons it tries to communicate to tell a story, there are some pretty exciting scenes in the movie itself – including the one where Samuel L. Jackson ends up voicing a squirrel.
All Dogs Go to Heaven
This 1989 animated film by American animator Don Bluth is a magical tale about sin, redemption, and family. The movie is all packaged in a colorful display that’s a signature of Bluth’s famous titles like “The Land Before Time” and “An American Tail.”
“All Dogs Go to Heaven” may seem like heresy for any animal lover who prefers cats due to its not-so-inclusive title, but Don Bluth’s animated film is more of a redemption piece than one that demonizes animals by their type. Following the story of Charlie – a con artist canine – and his dachshund friend, Itchy, “All Dogs Go to Heaven” shows that it’s not only our animal companions who change our lives for the better, albeit in a heavily fantasized manner.
While some people may find the appropriation of adult themes in “All Dogs Go to Heaven” to be out of place for what is supposed a family film, the movie itself is gorgeously animated for its time and stands as a great pet film for viewers of any age.
“Babe” was all the rave when this Australian-American film hit theaters in 1995, and the movie still holds up well to modern special effects. Beyond the impressive technical achievement to make animals look like they were actually talking, “Babe” is a story about acceptance and finding your place in the world despite where you came from.
Dark but hilarious scenes of Ferdinand the Duck shouting “Christmas is carnage!” and Babe understanding what pigs are to humans make “Babe” a great deconstruction of how we treat animals around us – pets or otherwise – just as much as it’s a tale about finding your place in the world. As a bit of trivia, the family friendly “Babe” was produced by none other than George Miller, famed creator of the Mad Max franchise and “Happy Feet,” which could explain the social critique angle of the film.
With gripping scenes that endanger Babe himself, as well as touching scenes of reconciliation and acceptance, “Babe” is a timeless classic and is definitely a film that can make any grown man cry.